I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Not a lot of natural wildlife down there. My parents did take me to the Little Red Schoolhouse on a fairly regular basis, and I used to love chasing frogs and turtles in Vogt Woods near my house, but I gotta tell you: Nothing in Tinley Park can compare with the nature and wildlife that I’ve seen in Minnesota. The bluffs in Winona, the woods up North, the lakes in every direction you turn, the raptors, the fishing birds, the small mammals, the deer. And every spring and summer the migrations bring new birds through the state that I’d never seen (or noticed) in Illinois. Minnesota is an amazing place to explore.
I know a lot of people who have cabins in Northern Minnesota, because apparently that’s a thing here. Everybody seems to have A Cabin Up North, or knows someone who has a cabin. What a cool way to spend a long weekend! There’s camping, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, hunting, water skiing and tubing, and all sorts of things to do and see throughout the state. But there’s a problem in some parts of Minnesota right now – people are seeing too much nature. Specifically, too many wolf pups.
A story ran on MPR yesterday about the “Hugo Wolves” – a population of wolf pups that has been showing up along the roads near Hugo, MN. Apparently the pups are left in nearby woods by adult wolves to learn how to hunt. People passing through see them and think they look abandoned and try to Do Good by leaving them food, or they leave food out to attract the pups so they can be seen and photographed.
The DNR says:
Image is from Sakarri on Flickr and is shared by a NC-SA 2.0 creative commons license. Image shows three wolves – the Ambassador pack at the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN – with the words “NO! BAD HUMAN!” along the bottom of the photo.
Many people, especially in this area of the country, are aware of the fragile balance between humans and wildlife. We are well-versed in why it’s a bad idea to mess with natural habitats and wildlife. Feeding wolf pups can have unintended consequences such as:
- Desensitizing wolves to humans – this means they’re willing to venture into towns or places with human traffic. When they lose their fear of humans and cities they’re more likely to get hurt (traffic accidents, humans hurting them out of fear or cruelty), or to hurt us or our pets.
- Wolf pups are cute, but they turn into adult wolves, which are wild animals and predators. See “hurt us or our pets” in the previous note.
- Giving pups food means they can become reliant on being fed by humans, and they don’t learn to hunt. This makes them less able to survive on their own in the wild.
So most of us are aware of why it’s a bad idea to feed wolf pups, but did you know that merely stopping on the side of the road to photograph them is a bad idea? Trust me, I understand the sad you get when you hear that. I would LOVE to photograph da wittle wolf puppies ZOMGCUTE! But when people stop and stare, wolf pups have no incentive to run away and avoid the human looking at them with big ol’ besotted eyes. The International Wolf Center in Ely, MN suggests yelling and honking at wolf pups, shooing them away. This helps encourages what they describe as a healthy fear avoidance of humans.
So, my Minnesota friends, the next time you head up to your Cabin Up North, be a friend to the wolves and leave them alone. We and the wolves will be better for it.